Ujjawal Chaudhary, senior Income Tax (I-T) officer, who led the probe into the multi-crore Madhu Koda scam, may have been on the verge of unravelling the link between politicians and hawala traders when he was abruptly shifted this week.
Sources said the team led by Chaudhary, who has been taken off the Koda probe and moved to the assessment wing, had gathered strong evidence linking politicians and others to hawala operators engaged in laundering black money abroad. Chaudhary was transferred when raids were still continuing at Chaibasa in Jharkhand.
The official and his colleagues are learnt to have hit a `jackpot’ during their raids on Pune-based businessman Ajay Bafna, who was under surveillance since October last year when the first indication of his dealings with Sanjay Chaudhary, close associate of the former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda, surfaced.
The team struck gold also while raiding two hawala traders in Delhi. The search of the business premises of one Vipin Kapoor, a hawala operator based in Karol Bagh, yielded details of accounts of banks in Switzerland and other countries which seem to belong to politicians.
Kapoor is a familiar face for tax authorities, having been convicted for gold smuggling earlier. But evidence seized from him surprised the raiding team given the likely connections with influential accounts.
Within Jharkhand, raids by I-T personnel led by Chaudhary over three days beginning February 16, reveaked disclosures of hundreds of crores in concealed incomes of bureaucrats and businessmen. Those targeted included Manohar Lal Pal, personal aide to current Jharkhand chief minister Shibu Soren.
A former employee of Coal India Limited who was sacked for allegedly forging his educational qualifications, Pal, faced with evidence, declared assets and investments totalling up to Rs 65 crore. Similarly, two businessmen engaged in mining — much of it allegedly illegal — have also admitted to having concealed Rs 30 crore from the tax authorities. A similar admission from a Kolkata-based chartered accountant, accused of helping the scamsters fudge accounts and who was confronted with papers showing he had not declared income worth Rs 12 crore, had appeared to be on the cards when Chaudhary was called off.
The findings of the investigation have generated a sensation in Jharkhand and other places like Delhi and Mumbai as slueths unearthed sordid details of the brazen loot of public money. Those who are facing charges include officials as well as engineers working in the mining and electricity departments.
In one particular instance, the team stumbled upon payment of Rs 4.6 crore allegedly made by cheque to functionaries of the Koda administration by an Andhra Pradesh-based construction company. In return, the company was allegedly allowed to inflate the cost of the project it was assigned under the Rajiv Gandhi Gramin Vidyutikaran Yojana.
The explanation offered by the tax authorities makes Chaudhary’s transfer seem innocuous. “He will be based in Patna and his jurisdictions will include both Bihar and Jharkhand. He has just been shifted to the assessment wing because he is best placed to assess the value of whatever the accused in the Koda scam and others have been found to possess,” it was said.
This does not wash with many because officers are seldom transferred mid-way through an investigation. Chaudhary, having spent just seven months at the last station, was not due for a transfer either. He took charge of the investigation on July 14, 2009.
What is puzzling political circles is that the I-T’s investigation is all against politicians who, with the exception of NCP’s Kamlesh Singh, former colleague of Koda, are not part of the UPA. In fact, many in Congress would be relishing the discomfiture of Shibu Soren over the raid on Pal, considering that he preferred the BJP for an alliance.
Chaudhary’s transfer has been taken to the judiciary, with a group of lawyers seeking the intervention of the Jharkhand High Court which is hearing the PIL against Koda.
But members of his team remain wary of more transfers. It is learnt that even during the course of investigation, Chaudhary and his team mates did not get enough cooperation while probing business dealings of Koda and his associates in Mumbai and elsewhere.